Canoe Sprint: Men’s K1 200m, Men’s C2 1000m
Athlete: Stephen Bird, Ferenc Szekszardi
Venue: Lagoa Stadium
WA paddler Stephen Bird has qualified for the final of the
men’s K1 200m after finishing second in his semi final on Day 14 of the 2016
Rio Olympic Games.
Having debuted in London, four years ago, in the men’s K2
200m with now coach Jesse Phillips, Bird produced a spirited effort in competition, to clock 34.584 in his semi final to progress, fourth fastest to
Saturday’s showpiece final.
Having waiting until the second to penultimate day of Olympic competition to get get underway in Rio, Bird demonstrated his skill in full, to earn a second career Olympic A Final appearance, after he and
Phillips had finished sixth in the 200m double back in 2012.
After Australia had initially missed out on qualification
for the men’s K2 200m for Rio (a boat later qualified), Bird had switched his
focus to the individual event for South America, going on to dominate the
Australian domestic season and Olympic selection trials in the process.
A strong preparation, reinforced with training camps in both
the UK and Italy, saw Bird storm through to the semi finals, after finishing
second in Heat 1, behind fastest qualifier for the final, Liam Heath of Great Britain.
Bird backed up his form under pressure in the
semi finals, again posting the second fastest time, this time in second semi,
to book his berth for the Day 15 final, keeping alive his dreams of a medal, in
his second campaign at Olympic level.
The South African born Aussie will race at 8:07pm Perth time
on Saturday, knowing that he has already ticked off a significant personal
goal, in having made the A Final. Bird will be joined by Heath, as well as
competitors from; Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Latvia.
Also in action on Day 14 at Lagoa Stadium, WA canoe paddler
Ferenc Szekszardi, competing in the men’s C2 1000m along with Martin Marinov,
missed qualification for the final, after finishing fifth in their semi– in a
time of 4:13.754.
Szekszardi at 36, and Martinov at age 48, had formed one of
the more unlikely combinations in Rio, having only committed to selection
trials in the final weeks leading up to the championships last summer.
The duo headed into competition knowing that a podium
performance was a stretch, but characteristically, competed with pride and
effort to finish behind crews from Cuba, Uzbekistan, Russia and Poland.
The pair crossed half a minute behind the race winning
Cubans, but will be back in action in the B Final on Saturday’s Day 15 schedule.